NYC Could Banish Outdoor Dining Sheds Under New City Regulations

The city is eyeing new restaurant rules "for a post-COVID scenario."

ChainGangPictures/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus
ChainGangPictures/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus

Outdoor dining has emerged as a lifeline for restaurants in New York City during the pandemic and reshaped the city's streetscape in the process. But the now-ubiquitous structures that have popped up outside many eateries may not last much longer.

The New York Post reports that at a recent City Council meeting, the head of the Department of Transportation's Open Restaurants initiative, Julie Schipper, said the DoT doesn't "envision sheds in the permanent program. We are not planning for that."

She explained that instead, the DoT would plan for "barriers and tents or umbrellas" in roadways, "but not these full houses that you're seeing in the street... We will not be grandfathering in any of the restaurants and their current structures right now."

The City Council is currently debating how to make the popular measures first enacted during COVID-19 shutdowns permanent. Erected quickly during the pandemic, outdoor dining structures were allowed without community input or review, leading to some clashes with neighbors over trash, noise, and sidewalk crowding. The majority of community boards have come out against them, but polling shows they have broad support in the city, particularly in dense Manhattan.

Restaurants are currently allowed to use curbside and sidewalk space until July under an emergency order signed by former Governor Andrew Cuomo. The council's debate is about what happens after that, with Schipper saying the plans for removing outdoor dining structures are "for a post-COVID scenario, where you can dine outside when that feels nice and comfortable, but you won't need to be in a house on the street."

Other proposed changes include a licensing process, fees, and inspections from the city to make sure any outdoor dining complies with rules and regulations set up by the council. 

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Chris Mench is an editor focusing on NYC News at Thrillist. You can follow him on Twitter for more of his work.